Man arrested in connection with Pipeline Fire near Flagstaff won’t serve jail time
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — A man arrested in connection with a wildfire that burned more than 26,000 acres near Flagstaff has officially switched his plea, and with it, avoids going to jail. Matthew Riser pleaded guilty on Wednesday to a single count of prohibited use of fire, a class B petty offense. A judge then sentenced him to one year of probation. The fine was waived since the court found Riser doesn’t have the cash to pay it.
Investigators said Riser used a lighter to set his toilet paper on fire and then tried to put the flames out with his sleeping bag when they got too big north of Flagstaff in the Coconino National Forest. It didn’t work, and the fire exploded on June 12, turning into the Pipeline Fire in the morning. Riser said he was homeless and had been camping in the forest for two days. There were signs around him that said no campfires.
Riser’s attorney disputes that his client was responsible, saying authorities determined the toilet paper didn’t start the massive wildfire. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors dropped the charge of Occupying or Using a Residence on Forest Service Lands. Another charge he was originally arrested for, Possession of a Controlled Substance, was dropped last month.
Riser is also banned from Northern Arizona forests including Coconino, Kaibab, Prescott, Gila and Apache-Sitgreaves. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office (District of Arizona) said on Friday it has no comment on the case.
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